How the climate crisis is transforming the Arctic permafrost

By Katie Hunt

Four years ago, Morris J. Alexie had to move out of the house his father built in Alaska in 1969 because it was sinking into the ground and water was beginning to seep into his home. “The bogs are showing up in between houses, all over our community. There are currently seven houses that are occupied but very slanted and sinking into the ground as we speak,” Alexie said by phone from Nunapitchuk, a village of around 600 people. “Everywhere is bogging up.”

What was once grassy tundra is now riddled with water, he said. Their land is crisscrossed by 8-foot-wide boardwalks the community uses to get from place to place. And even some of the boardwalks have begun to sink. “It’s like little polka dots of tundra land. We used to have regular grass all over our community. Now it’s changed into constant water marsh.”

Thawing permafrost — the long-frozen layer of soil that has underpinned the Arctic tundra and boreal forests of Alaska, Canada and Russia for millennia — is upending the lives of people such as Alexie. It’s also dramatically transforming the polar landscape, which is now peppered with massive sinkholes, newly formed or drained lakes, collapsing seashores and fire damage….